Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day 11 - Arles and Van Gogh

Arles, a place of inspiration for Van Gogh and many other artists, like Picasso, Cézanne or Gauguin. The name of Arles is closely connected with Vincent Van Gogh. It is impossible to evoke the light of Arles without thinking of his paintings. It was this luminosity that attracted Van Gogh to the south of France. Vincent arrived in Arles one day in February 1888 looking for the outside light but also seeking an interior illumination.
Here he started a period of intense and impassioned work under the bright sunny sky of Provence. His stay in Arles was the most productive period of his life, with more than 300 paintings and drawings done in his 15 months here. It is one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of art. Even though there are no original paintings by Van Gogh in the city, the shadow of his presence is everywhere.

In the city, the places where Van Gogh set up his easel are pointed out by panels representing his works. Ten spots have been thus indicated : The Place du Forum for the "Evening Café", the Trinquetaille bridge for the "Staircase of the Trinquetaille bridge", the Rhone River quay for the "Starry Night", the Place Lamartine for the "Yellow House", the Rue Mireille for the "Old Mill", the Summer Garden on the Boulevard des Lices for the "Public Garden", the Espace Van Gogh for the "Hospital Garden", the road along the Arles à Bouc canal for the "Langlois bridge with washerwomen". The Arena and the Alyscamps were also depicted in several paintings.

Langlois was the name of the bridge guard. Vincent painted and sketched this drawbridge many times.
The bridge reminded him of Holland, his native country. He wrote to his brother Theo : "I've found a funny thing, I won't do things like this every day, it's a drawbridge with a little yellow buggy and groups of washerwomen, a study where the earth is bright red, the grass green, the sky and the water blue." This bridge has become a French historical landmark since 1988. (Langlois is also my wife Christine's maiden name so we took special note of this name.)Van Gogh's painting of the Langlois Bridge at Arles was painted in 1888. It includes two cypress trees, a woman walking over the bridge with an umbrella, and a horse buggy that has just crossed over the bridge. The bridge can still be seen in France, near Arles in Provence.

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